Aerial picture of Montclair State University campus

Contact Tracing

Overview

During Stages 1 and 2, the University Health Center has been maintaining a case log and a contact list for each member of the campus community, including both students and employees, known to have been infected, and has conducted contact tracing in collaboration with the specific health department that has responsibility for each case.

As the University begins to reopen more fully, the University’s contact tracing program will be expanded. The Occupational Health Department will take over responsibility for logging and tracing employee and visitor cases, while the University Health Center will focus on student cases. Students will be trained to serve as contact tracers, working under the supervision of a health care professional.

Montclair State’s contact tracing efforts will focus largely on identifying persons on campus who may have been in contact with an infected person for extended periods of time. The University will continue to work closely with the specific health department that has responsibility for each case.

The Alert System to Trigger Contact Tracing

The Occupational Health Department will manage the alert system that may trigger contact tracing for employees, and the University Health Center will manage the process for students.

These two services may receive the alert through a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • An individual may answer affirmatively to one or more of the questions on the Health Screening Assessment tool.
  • An individual may provide information when receiving on-campus healthcare services for a specific concern.
  • An individual may self-report the information to a supervisor, a professor or advisor, or to another employee, who in turn should report it to the Occupational Health Department or the University Health Service.

Tracing Process

When Montclair State University health care professionals become aware of an employee or student who may be infected, they will conduct an individual assessment, then determine if other members of the University community need to be identified, contacted and advised to enter quarantine.

Tracing will be conducted by health care professionals and trained students, who will call the at-risk individuals and ask a series of scripted questions to identify with whom they have been in close contact (“proximal contacts”) during the period when they may have become infected. The State of New Jersey currently defines “close contact” as coming within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more.

Tracing will also be supported by technology that can help identify the campus locations visited by an individual at a particular day and time. This location data will be supplemented by work or class schedules and residence hall rosters.

The University will continue to work closely with local health departments, which have their own contact tracing protocols that are initiated when they receive a positive test result about a person in their jurisdiction, based on the home or campus address provided by the employee or student. The University’s process, when added to the work of the local health department, will decrease the time during which an affected person can transmit the virus.

Actions taken upon alert of a possible COVID-19 case

The specific actions taken depend on the context in which the information was provided.

Health Screening Assessment

Positive responses to questions in the Hawk Check (health screening assessment) tool provide an alert to University Health or Occupational Health. A health care professional will then contact the individual and ask the appropriate questions to assess the health status of the individual. The individual will be provided health information and resources according to the most recent guidelines.

Proximity contact tracing by the University will be initiated if the person has a positive test, is waiting for test results, or if the person has symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

On-campus health care services

If the health care professional providing services determines the individual has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, then diagnostic testing may be ordered. The individual will be provided health education and resources, according to the most recent guidelines. Proximal contact tracing will be initiated. In the case of a student, arrangements for isolation and other risk reduction measures will be activated.

Self-reporting by employee or student

Employees, visitors and contractors should report symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to Occupational Health and to their supervisor. The Occupational Health Department will have a health care professional assess the health status of the individual, and if necessary, will activate tracing of the infected person’s contacts within the Montclair State community.

Students should report symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to the University Health Center and their professor or academic advisor. The information should also be reported on the Health Screening Assessment tool so that their symptoms are recorded. Protocols for the Health Screening Assessment tool will then be followed.

Any employee who receives a self-report of COVID-19 should

  1. report it to Occupational Health if the self-reporter is an employee, and
  2. report it to the University Health Center if the self-reporter is a student.

Both students and employees should report symptoms via the Health Screening Assessment tool so that their symptoms are recorded.

Contact Tracing Staffing 

The health care professionals in Occupational Health and University Health Centers will need to quickly identify and contact individuals at risk of infection with COVID-19.

Through contact tracing within the campus community, persons at risk will be offered health care education and resources. To accomplish timely contact tracing, the University will employ students who are in health-related programs. These students will complete the Johns Hopkins contact tracing course and will work under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as needed, or as part of a clinical practicum.

Contact tracers will interview people and ask a series of scripted questions that will identify who they have been in close contact with during the period they may have been infected. All documentation will be reviewed by the healthcare professional supervisor.

Technology to Support Contact Tracing

To support contact tracers and the health care professionals in Occupational Health and the University Health Center who need to quickly identify and contact individuals at risk of infection with COVID-19, the University will make available to them location data collected by the University’s wireless network system. The MSU wireless network automatically collects location data for every employee, student and visitor who has elected to connect a device to the campus wireless network as part of the normal operation of our network infrastructure. This data shows the date, time, location and user id (or email for contractors and visitors) for all persons who were connected to a particular device within the network. It will be extraordinarily helpful for tracing the potential spread of COVID-19 to affected persons.

Dashboards will be delivered to individuals responsible for contact tracing to provide the appropriate data based on symptoms displayed, potential exposures and confirmed positive cases to Occupational Health and University Health Center case managers to determine when campus proximity tracing should begin. Appropriate anonymized data will be given to campus contact tracers to begin contact tracing. The data is intended to assist in refreshing a person’s memory of their movement on campus. This approach will allow rapid communication of the appropriate messages to potentially affected individuals to mitigate the spread of the virus. The use of data from the wireless network for this purpose is permitted by MSU’s Responsible Use of Computing Policy, Section IV. Security and Privacy, which permits the logging of activity and individual monitoring, as necessary to respond to perceived emergency situations as authorized in advance by the President or Vice President for Information Technology, and to disclose such information to other University personnel and outside enforcement agencies as appropriate.

Collaboration with Other Agencies

The University’s campus spans two counties (Essex and Passaic) and three municipalities (Montclair, Little Falls, and Clifton). Montclair State has established lines of communication with public health officials in all of our surrounding communities and will continue to work in close collaboration with our partners in all these jurisdictions, as well as at the State level.

The University has well-developed relationships with both major hospitals nearby: St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair. Areas of cooperation include sharing information and health data, case logging, contact tracing, emergency response, and transport of ill persons.